The Politics of Health: Race Blindness in D.C.?

The Politics of Health: Race Blindness in D.C.?

Recently, I attended a conference on race and medicine. As part of his presentation, one of the participants showed a slide of an invitation for a social event that had been sent out by an Indiana medical society. The theme of the event was “Jungle Fever.” The announcement showed a white couple, dressed in safari garb, in a boiling cauldron of water. They were surrounded by a monkey eating bananas and a black man with a bone in his nose. The black man was looking at the couple with glee, obviously in anticipation of his supper.

The dance was to be held on January 12, 1994. This episode graphically illustrates why it is crucial that the debate over health care reform confront issues of race and racism. Thus far, public discussion has focused on the elimination of financial barriers. Important, certainly, but if we ignore racial issues, we risk further entrenchment of the already appalling disparities in health that exist between black and white Americans.

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